2023 W. NCAA Previews: Weyant Aims To Spoil Virginia 1-2 In 400 IM


Last season, the University of Virginia had three swimmers finish inside the top four of the 400 IM at the Women’s NCAA Championships, with Alex Walsh securing a dominant victory in a time of 3:57.25.

Her teammates at the time, Ella Nelson and Emma Weyant, placed third and fourth, while Stanford fifth-year (and the 2021 champion) Brooke Forde was the runner-up.

Without Forde in the field, Walsh, Nelson and Weyant appear to be well on their way to occupying the top three spots at NCAAs this year, although it won’t be a Cavalier sweep as Weyant has moved on to the University of Florida.

Walsh is the fourth-fastest performer in history and the clear favorite for a repeat title, while Nelson is the fastest swimmer in the country this season after becoming just the 12th woman under four minutes at the ACC Championships (3:59.33).

Therefore, Virginia will be favored to go 1-2, but former teammate Weyant has the potential to spoil the party.


With Walsh and Nelson having a clear distinction of being the two fastest swimmers in the field, Weyant appears to be the only woman with a shot at upsetting the potential 1-2.

Weyant’s 400 IM pedigree is an impressive one in long course meters, as she won Olympic silver in Tokyo and then followed up with a bronze medal at the 2022 World Championships.

In yards, Weyant has shown progress since transferring to the University of Florida, bringing her best time down from 4:03.17 at the 2022 NCAAs to 4:01.18 at last month’s SECs.

If Weyant can challenge the 4:00-barrier, she’ll have a shot at Nelson, who won ACCs in 3:59.33 and was 4:02.45 last year at NCAAs to edge out Weyant for third.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Florida women likely rested more than UVA for their conference championship meet, which would tip the scales in favor of a Cavalier 1-2 here, with Weyant a good bet for third.

As for Walsh, she has yet to show her cards this season in the 400 IM. The reigning world champion in the 200 IM, Walsh didn’t contest the 400 IM at either the Tennessee Invitational or ACC Championships, but did put up a time of 4:03.79 at a tri-meet with NC State and UNC in January—though she was beaten by Nelson (4:03.66) head-to-head.

That seeds Walsh fourth on the psych sheets, which may be a little deceiving, but make no mistake—she’s the clear favorite.


Weyant isn’t the only swimmer who has seen improvement in the 400 IM after transferring to a new school in the offseason, as senior Felicia Pasadyn has hit a new level after wrapping up her Harvard career in three years and heading to Ohio State.

Pasadyn was 15th at the 2022 NCAAs in 4:08.29 (hitting a PB of 4:08.25 in the prelims), but she had a massive time drop last month at Big Tens, roaring to the title in a time of 4:03.62.

Given the significant time drop, and the fact that the Buckeyes were vying for the conference title, there’s a question as to whether Pasadyn can back this swim up at NCAAs, or if a full taper for Big Tens will see her add a bit of time.

It’s worth noting that, due to the COVID pandemic canceling the 2020 NCAAs and the Ivy League calling off its 2021 season, last year was Pasadyn’s NCAA debut, and she dropped time, so we wouldn’t bet against her doing so again.


NC State’s Grace Sheble, Cal’s Leah Polonsky and Minnesota’s Megan Van Berkom are three key names to keep an eye on as they’ll be looking to lean on their experience last year to take the next step at NCAAs, while ignorance is bliss for Texas A&M freshman Giulia Goerigk, who has been lights out in her first year in College Station.

Van Berkom, a junior, had a massive breakout last season, bringing her best time down from 4:10.50 to 4:03.45 en route to winning the Big Ten title. Then, after adding in the prelims at NCAAs, she got down to 4:04.96 in the consolation final to place 11th.

This year, Van Berkom placed second to Pasadyn at Big Tens in 4:04.86, indicating she’ll have a bit more in the tank at NCAAs. And after missing the ‘A’ final last year, we know Van Berkom will be locked in for the prelims.

Polonsky and Sheble, both sophomores, placed 13th and 22nd at NCAAs as freshmen, respectively.

Similar to Van Berkom, Polonsky (4:03.90) and Sheble (4:05.61) hit best times at their conference meets last season before adding at NCAAs.

Polonsky was a bit slower at Pac-12s this season (4:05.27), while Sheble (4:04.98) hit another PB. It will be interesting to see who is able to continue the progression and take off more time at NCAAs.

As for Goerigk, the German native came out of nowhere to establish the top time in the country (at the time) at the Art Adamson Invitational in 4:05.75, and had a solid SEC debut to take third in 4:06.84.

Having all but locked up an NCAA spot during midseason invites, the Texas A&M coaching staff has likely kept Goerigk’s workload pretty heavy throughout the season, and a good taper could see her down in the 4:03 range if she fires on all cylinders.

Two other first-years to watch for are Florida’s Zoe Dixon and Stanford’s Lucy Bell, who hit respective best times of 4:06.18 and 4:06.28 at their conference championship meets.

UCLA sophomore Paige Maceachern is another swimmer with the potential to make the championship final, having improved from a 23rd-place finish as a freshman (4:10.19) to a best time of 4:06.17 and runner-up finish at Pac-12s a few weeks ago.


Kentucky’s Lauren Poole will be vying for her third straight top-five NCAA finish in the 400 IM, having placed third as a freshman in 2021 and fifth last year.

Poole hit a best time of 4:02.73 at the 2021 NCAAs, and has been fairly consistent at every championship-level meet throughout her career, clocking 4:03 at SECs/4:04 at NCAAs last year, and 4:04 at SECs this year.

The other returning ‘A’ finalist is Florida’s Mabel Zavaros, who got down to a best time of 4:04.43 to make last year’s final before placing sixth in 4:06.22.

The Canadian native is one of the few swimmers in the field to have raced at the 2019 NCAAs, having redshirted the 2021 season, so she has a wealth of experience under her belt and showed solid form with a pair of 4:07 swims at SECs.

With a strong training group in Gainesville that now includes Weyant, Dixon and senior Kathleen Golding (18th seed), Zavaros and her Gator teammates are poised to make an impact in Knoxville.

Lousiville’s Abby Hay and Kentucky’s Gillian Davey come in having made the consolation final last year and are aiming to take a leap forward into the big heat.


Place Swimmer School Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Alex Walsh Virginia 4:03.79 3:57.25
2 Ella Nelson Virginia 3:59.33 3:59.33
3 Emma Weyant Florida 4:01.18 4:01.18
4 Lauren Poole Kentucky 4:04.62 4:02.73
5 Megan Van Berkom Minnesota 4:04.86 4:03.45
6 Felicia Pasadyn Ohio State 4:03.62 4:03.62
7 Grace Sheble NC State 4:04.98 4:04.98
8 Zoe Dixon Florida 4:06.18 4:06.18

Dark Horse: Sarah Foley, Duke – Foley raced the 400 IM for the first time in a collegiate championship meet last month at ACCs, dropping a personal best time of 4:06.25 to place fourth, using a blistering freestyle split to come within striking distance of a spot on the podium. As a high-level breaststroker and freestyler, Foley might be willing to put more gas into her front-half at NCAAs knowing she’s able to bring things home well, and she’s a history of being able to execute a double-taper.

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1 year ago

Walsh might’ve been 4th fastest when she went 3:57.25, but she’s at least the 6th fastest now as Sims and Grimes went 56.59 and 57.02

HOO love
1 year ago

Ella Nelson is having a killer year. Would love to see Alex & her go 1-2. NAC/Harpeth Hall➡️UVA pipeline

Ray Diator
1 year ago

Taper this, taper that. Do people really believe that “a good taper” or “hitting their taper” is the only reason why top caliber athletes swim fast? Whatever happened to determination, drive, hating to lose, killer instinct, mental toughness and talent?

1 year ago

Would love to see Emma pull out the win.

1 year ago

*uses ironic stock pic of Emma with a UVA cap*

Gummy Shark
1 year ago

I know she’s on another team now, but I feel like it would still be a pseudo 1-2-3 for Virginia lol

1 year ago

I dunno-Alex has a dirty 4IM. I dont see Weyent beating her.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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